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Barack Obama’s views on marriage did not ‘evolve’

The US president was waiting for the public mood to change before supporting gay marriage

By on Thursday, 10 May 2012

Barack Obama at the White House (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Barack Obama at the White House (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

I heard this morning on Radio 4 that President Barack Obama has come out in favour of same-sex marriage. When he let it be known recently that his views on the subject were “evolving” he was not being entirely honest. To “evolve” one’s views suggests a slow and gradual change that might require much thought and heart-searching. But Obama hasn’t “evolved” in this sense at all. What he should have said was that he wanted to assess the public mood and then wait for the right political moment to publicly announce what he had actually thought for many years. In 1996 when he was a candidate for the State Senate in Illinois, he wrote on a candidate’s questionnaire that “I favour legalizing same-sex marriages.” So much for “evolution”.

It is interesting that Obama, who calls himself a Christian and who has apparently talked through the “evolution” of his thought with his family, is in favour of same-sex marriage, and Mitt Romney, the Republican contender in the presidential election, who is a Mormon (which some would consider not a Christian religion at all) has come out declaring that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Many commentators regard the “right” to same-sex marriage in the same way as the battle for civil rights in the US in the 1960s. According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.” Blogger Sheila Liaugminas has this to say on her blog today: “None of us wants to be on the wrong side of any human rights issue. Which is why it’s so strategic to make [same-sex marriage] a human rights issue. No wonder the poll numbers are changing, trending towards acceptance or approval of ‘same-sex marriage’. By word control the merchants of ideas and politics are attempting thought control, and it works by casting a whole segment of the population as ‘opponents’ of a ‘right’. When in fact what we’re talking about is the redefinition of marriage” .

She adds the further comment, that “Almost nobody is talking about the rights of children in this battle” and draws attention to what William B May, founder and chairman of a San Francisco-based group that promotes Catholic social teaching, has to say. He points out that “By redefining marriage as merely the public recognition of a relationship between adults, we essentially ban the promotion of marriage as the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. It creates a conflict with the human rights of the child, to know and be cared for by their mother and father in the union of marriage.”

Liaugminas also mentions a political consideration for Obama, in his bid for re-election: what will happen to the African-American vote this time around? In California in 2008 African-Americans voted for Obama but against same-sex marriage. Will they now support the “evolution” of Obama’s Christian beliefs or remain loyal to their own traditional Christian understanding of marriage?

Over here Iain Duncan-Smith, the (Catholic) Work and Pensions Secretary, has been undergoing his own “evolution” with regard to the redefinition of marriage. When he was the Conservative Party leader he made it party policy to oppose same-sex couples being given equal rights to adopt children. Now James Park in Pink News reports that Duncan Smith “has confirmed that he will be supporting Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to introduce equal civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. In what appears to be an apparently remarkable evolution of his own personal approach to LGBT rights, he pointed out that in a country where so many heterosexual couples are breaking up, marriage equality is a positive method of creating a more stable society.”

I don’t know if Duncan Smith has had pressure put upon him to toe the Coalition line here and is afraid of losing his high-profile job, or whether he now genuinely believes that you can simply rearrange the definition of marriage by a little “evolutionary” mental process. Either way, I think the less of him for it.

  • JByrne24

    The USA is a Secular State and its Constitution demands the separation of Church and State.

    There is total freedom to practise any religion, within the Law.

    The lunatic religious Right and the plethora of mad preachers well-illustrates this.

  • Oconnord

    You are falling into the PC trap. When did religion, culture or nationhood become race?
    And when did valid criticism become hate speech?

    Most cowardly of all, why are concerned people being labelled phobic? If there are genuine concerns to be met, as there are with all religious beliefs, (or lack of), the best approach is openness and explanation. Too often the religious seem to rely on the presumption that those who reject them…”just don’t understand”, or “they are afraid of my truth”, or “they won’t accept my higher power” or “they are trying to destroy us” or many other variations along those lines.     

  • Oconnord

    Freedom of speech fails most of all under self censorship. 

  • Oconnord

    An interesting idea.. Which candidate is likely to be the anti-Christ.

    He will come from wealth and power…. perhaps he will use that power to make normal people’s lives harder by removing their jobs. 

    He will come under a false religion…. perhaps he will follow a cult set by a convicted fraudster, whilst wearing special talismans (underwear) to prevent supernatural duress.

    He will use his powers for “evil”… Polygamy…. or adhering to the idea that saying that skin tone makes a person a sub-human. 

    Who seems more like an anti-Christ to you?  

  • Princess Oh

    Except when it doesn’t. Check out Mr Oddie’s latest blog where he makes some outrageous claims about child abuse and muslims. No comments allowed. I wonder why…

  • RichRocks

    How anyone can call someone the anti-Christ for doing nothing more than suggest that all people should be treated equally is beyond imagining. Seriously, I can’t imagine what mean and twisted thought process you have to go through to reach that conclusion. 

  • Rohan

    A drug peddler wants equality. He believes he should be treated the same as someone who sells burgers. After all, they are both selling things to those who want them.

  • RichRocks

    My point was about the language used. Would you call someone who advocated the legalisation of drugs (Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith for example) an anti-Christ? Didn’t think so.

  • Sean

    No, he is peddling shxte, most of his posts are either bashing the Irish or insulting women, I have yet to read a post of his that distances him from a faint admiration of islamic enforcement methods

  • GFFM

    Obama and his twenty something entourage in the White House are more than merely annoyed at Biden for forcing Obama’s sudden flip flop–who is a complete idiot by every possible measure. Obama’s flip flop is pure pandering and now black churches are demanding an explanation for his new position. Newsweek, (a lousy magazine about to go out of business) is trying to save itself and Obama, and an act of nauseating desperation. African Americans do not by a huge majority do not support gay marriage. Just wait a couple of days, he’ll evolve a new position.